CB2: Bed Bugs Invade DC

“That’s strange, those mosquito bites form a perfect line up my leg. Son-of-a…. bed bugs!”
That’s right, bed bugs. Believe it or not there has been an alarming resurgence of bed bugs in the US, so much that the EPA, CDC and USDA have launched a war on squashing this problem once and for all (statement). Just outside of DC, you’ll find the scientific research arm of the USDA working diligently on a new pesticide that can consistently kill bed bugs while not poisoning us in the process.
How big of a problem is it? Over 95% of exterminators nationwide have treated homes for bed bugs in the past year, up from less than 25% in the year 2000. The problem has spread so rapidly that there’s a good chance one of your traveling friends or co-workers has gone through it – but may have been too embarrassed to tell (they’re not as cute as pictured).
So why is this suddenly a big deal again? The EPA and CDC believe that the current problem is due to a convergence of (1) lack of awareness to the issue, (2) increased travel and (3) over-reliance on pesticides. As we use more chemicals, bugs come more resistant to them, and bed bugs are THE most difficult pest to treat – even more so than roaches, ants and termites. Just looking at the map below, you can imagine how travel among these cities could be responsible for spreading the problem.

It may be hard to see this as a “crisis” – after all, they don’t spread disease – but as someone who recently lived through it, it’s hell. After having bed bugs hitch a ride on us at a motel in Rocky Mt, NC on a drive from Philadelphia to St. Pete, we went through weeks of not being able to sleep and itching like crazy while going crazy. Productivity at work suffered, our relationship suffered, and the cost and time of one failed treatment after another wasn’t fun either.
How can you tell if a hotel has bed bugs?
Since they’re hard to see, damn near impossible to treat, feed only once per week, and plague even the most expensive hotels there’s not much one can do to clear a room before sleeping in one. Yes there are websites that try to track which hotels have bed bugs, but I think those are pointless because who knows if the hotel has taken care of the problem since then or if the guest even got it from there in the first place. You could always call and ask before booking say “the law requires you to disclose so…” and see what happens – maybe you’ll get lucky.
What do I recommend for leaving those hitchhikers behind?
I’m now in the habit of keeping my suitcase and clothes off the ground and away from the bed and cushioned furnitures. Use the luggage rack or even put your suitcase on top of a dresser. Bed bugs don’t usually climb up those slippery slopes.
If you want to take it a step farther, put the clothes you sleep in each night in a trash bag and tie it before putting it back in your suitcase. When you get home, wash them in hot water and dry them in high heat. Or, if it’s below 25 degrees outside, just leave the bag out there for a few hours to save energy. That’ll kill them too.
How do you get rid of bed bugs once you’ve got them?
Prayer. Joking aside, Google it. There are a lot of resources online. What finally worked for me was rigorous cleaning, washing/drying everything in sight in hot water, then using these bed bug foggers throughout the house. After that failed the first time, I invented some new curse words, and tried it again successfully.
Weigh in
Whether you’re a GovLooper working for an agency dealing with bed bugs or someone who has gone through it, share your stories and questions in the comments section below!

Website of the Week: Google Trends

Couldn’t do a CB2 without cool tech! Like the name says, Google Trends shows you how search terms are trending over time. Check out this link for bed bug search trends for example. It clearly shows the increased search activity in recent years and which cities search for it most. That’s powerful public health information.

Think of how you could use it in your own agency too. Take another example – maybe you work for Mass HHS and are trying to show that searches for adoption in Massachusetts have declined in the past few years.

Read Last Week’s CB2: Gov2.0 Begets Cool Tech

About Chris Bennett

Chris Bennett is a self-proclaimed emergency management innovator who is trying to make government better by improving citizen preparedness and crisis communications. He’s a graduate of Wharton with a master’s from Harvard with in “Technology, Innovation, Education.” His portfolio of companies and former projects include OneStorm Hurricane Preparedness, ReadyTown, GovLive, TexasPrepares and America’s Emergency Network. Chris was the recipient of FL Governor Crist’s 2008 Public Information Award. He lives in St. Petersburg, FL, loves to fish, and has been spotted sharing a pint with GovLoop Founder Steve Ressler in Tampa.

What does CB2 Mean? “Chris Bennett’s Crisis Blog.” It was originally CB Squared but the superscript 2 never took, so now we’re rocking the big 2.

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Chris Bennett

The flashbacks gave me chills writing this. I purposely didn’t include any actual bed bug photos. There is an easter egg in the blog somewhere though 🙂